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Politeness and civility are similar, but distinct.

The purpose of politeness is to show respect for the people you are now interacting with by acting pleasantly.

The purpose of civility is to create the conditions that allow civilization to advance and prosper. While inoffensive behavior toward other citizens often helps, it is not enough. Civility requires engaging in civic dialogue, and fulfilling your role as a citizen. Because a strong democracy requires an informed citizenry, civility—at least for citizens participating in a representative government—requires being informed.

The citizenship requirements of civility extend beyond politeness. At its best, civility requires exercising each of the virtues described in this course. What would civility be without justice, tolerance, wisdom, and good faith? At its least, it requires some intuition for those virtues.

Civility requires you to be civilized, politeness only requires that you act civilized for now.

Assignment:[edit | edit source]

Adopt these practices for behaving civilly.[1]

  1. Respect and courtesy:
    • Treat others with respect, regardless of differences in opinions, backgrounds, or beliefs.
    • Use polite language and manners when communicating with others.
    • Listen actively and considerately to others' viewpoints without interrupting or dismissing them.
  2. Self-control and emotional competency:
    • Keep emotions in check and respond to situations calmly and rationally.
    • Avoid personal attacks or insults, even in the face of disagreement or conflict.
    • Manage conflicts constructively and seek resolutions that are fair and mutually beneficial.
  3. Open-mindedness and tolerance:
    • Be receptive to diverse perspectives and opinions, even if they differ from your own.
    • Avoid making snap judgments or stereotypes based on superficial characteristics.
    • Engage in constructive dialogue and be willing to learn from others' experiences and knowledge.
  4. Empathy and compassion:
    • Seek to understand others' feelings, experiences, and challenges.
    • Show empathy by acknowledging and validating others' emotions.
    • Offer support and assistance when needed, demonstrating care and compassion.
  5. Integrity and honesty:
    • Act with integrity, adhering to well-chosen moral and ethical principles.
    • Be truthful and honest in your interactions and communications.
    • Take responsibility for your actions and admit mistakes when they occur.
  6. Consideration for others:
    • Respect personal boundaries, privacy, and individual autonomy.
    • Be mindful of how your actions and behaviors might impact others.
    • Avoid behaviors that may cause discomfort, inconvenience, or harm to others.
  7. Good citizenship:
    • Contribute positively to the community and society at large.
    • Follow laws and regulations and fulfill civic responsibilities.
    • Engage in constructive activities that promote the well-being and advancement of society.

Behaving civilly is not just about adhering to a set of rules; it is a mindset and a commitment to treating others with dignity and respect. It promotes a culture of understanding, cooperation, and harmony, fostering positive relationships and a better social environment for everyone involved.

Further Reading[edit | edit source]

Students who are interested in learning more about civility may wish to read these books:

  1. ChatGPT Contributed to this text.